The world’s biggest conference on climate change started today in Paris, with the pressure on leaders from over 150 countries to stem the most destructive effects of global warming.
The COP21 conference, through Dec. 11, has a goal to hold the increase in temperature by the end of the century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.
President Obama arrived in Paris Sunday night with negotiators and participants who had been working to deliver a comprehensive agreement for months. The White House wants to be seen as taking a lead in containing greenhouse gas emissions, observers say.
“I think the U.S. wants to make a credible case that the administration is doing everything in its power to reduce greenhouse gases,” Adele Morris, a policy director at the Brookings Institution and lead negotiator during 2000 international climate change talks, told ABC News. “The U.S. wants to put forward that we’re going to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels.”
Morris said negotiations are not really centered around one deal like carbon taxes but, instead, many of the countries participating will put forward their individual contributions. “I think the Paris agreement is going to be a job of stapling these agreements together,” Morris said.
One major sticking point is who will pay for the “loss and damage” caused by the effects of climate change, such as intense storms and hurricanes that have ravaged whole towns and economies. Developing countries want the European Union and United States to bear more of the cost.
At home, Obama faces Republicans who want to prevent the administration from instating rules on decreasing carbon pollution from power plants. Twenty-four states have filed lawsuits against the measures. They hope to send a clear message to the international community attempting to negotiate the agreement in Paris: The president does not have the support of the U.S. Congress. They’ve even tried forcing the president to acquire Senate approval before signing any deal.
The United States, Canada and nine European countries today pledged nearly $250 million to help the most vulnerable countries adapt to rising seas, droughts and other effects of climate change.
Since the terrorist attacks in the host city two weeks ago, some negotiators and observers believe there is more will to produce an agreement by the end of the conference. By tackling climate change, the international community could address the struggle over resources that helps breed terrorism.
“I believe that it will make a deal more likely, because what I feel from the parties is that they are very eager to move,” Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States in the negotiations, told the BBC.
In 2009, the Copenhagen talks ended in no deal and were seen as a failure. As 45,000 journalists, non-governmental organization participants and negotiators pour into Paris for COP21 and the city ramps up security, the world hopes for something different in Paris.
French President Francois Hollande, hosting the talks, said “no conference has ever gathered so many leaders from so many countries … but never before have the international stakes been so high.”